Tattoo registry proposal slammed

Tattooists and civil libertarians have criticised a proposal for a tattoo registry in Queensland, saying the intent to stop gang money laundering activities would be ineffective and an invasion of privacy.

The registry would force people who want to get tattoos to register their intentions to the Queensland Government in order to prevent people from using fake names and thousands of crime related dollars at tattoo parlours.

Mermaid Beach MP Raymond Stevens, who proposed the introduction of a registry in parliament last Wednesday, said there was “no doubt” in his mind that tattoo parlours on the Gold Coast are the way bikie clubs “clean” their money.

“Under the Health Act there should be a register of people getting tattoos so that we can identify those people getting tattoos rather than have John Smith, Bill Brown and all the other fake names of people who are paying $5,000 or $10,000 for tattoos,” Mr Stevens said.

But Australian Tattooists Guild spokesman Josh Roelink said the registry would be an “invasion of privacy” and a “breakdown on civil liberties”.  

Mr Roelink, who is a tattooist in the northern NSW town of Lennox Heads, said there is “no evidence” bikie clubs use tattoo studios solely for money laundering.

“It might stop clubs being involved and laundering money through tattoo studios but then they’re just going to go to other businesses,” he said.

Mr Roelink said he could understand where Mr Stevens was coming from but it was “the wrong way” of going about preventing gang money laundering.

“I think finances would be far better being directed straight towards the police or the people who are dealing with money laundering like AUSTRAC.

“If they (clients) knew it was going to a government register they would be quite against it.

“If it was just kept in-house and we had the records just for ourselves and for our peace of mind, given any sort of legal action against us, I think it would be fine,” Mr Roelink said.

Under the Tattoo Parlours Bill 2012, tattoo shop operators in New South Wales must have their financial records available for inspection by a police officer at any “reasonable time”.

“One of the Government’s aims in introducing this legislation is to ensure that tattoo parlours cannot be used to launder the proceeds of crime,” the bill says.

Mr Roelink also expressed concern that a tattoo registry could encourage younger people to resort to backyard tattooing.

“It’s definitely a plausible situation,” Mr Roelink said.

President of Queensland Council for Civil Liberties Michael Cope said a tattoo registry would be an “unnecessary intrusion on freedom of speech and privacy”.

“To make a whole bunch of innocent people provide details of themselves and their tattoos and keep them on a record is highly unnecessary,” he said.

Mr Cope said he could not see how having the registry under the Health Act would be effective.

“That’s a strange place to put that legislation,” he said.

“It (the registry) would be far less effective than the powers that the police already have to deal with unexplained wealth, the cash transactions reporting.

“All that legislation is more than adequate to deal with the issue.”

Manager of Surf ‘n’ Ink tattoo studio Justin Nichols said the concept of a tattoo registry was “laughable”.

Mr Nichols said it would be an invasion of his clients’ privacy.

“It’s a fashion, it’s like clothes, it’s like going to the shop and having to register what you buy to wear,” he said.

The Queensland Government is yet to decide whether the tattoo registry will be introduced.

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